Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Search for the Historical Christmas Story

Is there a better way between the dismissive arrogance of the sceptics and the naive fideism of the fundamentalist? I hope so.

My pet litmus test for a true interest in the historical Christmas (rather than the populist semi-pagan saccharine version) is the lack of room in the inn, which was of course no such thing but simply an overflowing guest room in the house of one of Jospeh's relations.

Generally the main sceptical complaint is the dissimilarity of the Christmas stories but they align in more ways than they disagree. The biggest stumbling block for most is the issue of Jesus' birth at Quirinius' census for which there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Not least that Quirinius was not governor of Syria until 6 AD. However even this is not as cut and dried a mistake as it appears.

There are various theories about what (known) astronomical event might explain the Magi's star, and one who connects the later Christian attachment to the fish symbol (Ichthus) to a a convergence with Pisces constellation at the time of Jesus' birth. It's an interesting theory, although the implications would be troubling: what does the horoscope have to do with Christ?

Personally I think Christians should be aware of the difficulty of establishing some of our beliefs as fact. Equally we should beware of taking traditional and popular interpretations, translations and accretions as gospel. On the other hand, the problem with archaeology is that most of the data is still underground. Just as many Bible events seem unlikely from the best historical evidence, so have many Biblical events previously thought to be improbable or false been corroborated by evidence later. Both the sceptic and the believer are better served by remaining humble, curious and open-minded.

If two gospels managed to miss the birth narratives out completely we probably don't need to iron out all the details of the story to know who Jesus was, is and why he is important.

Let me know what you think :-)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Logical Fallacies and the Fallacy Fallacy

Yes I know that is a lot of fallacies in the title. I came across this little picture on FB this morning.

Which I thought was worth keeping as a nice summary of the main logical fallacies, but then I read this piece by Randal Rauser which complains about a fallacy which he coins the Fallacy Fallacy:

The fallacy fallacy illustrates the old adage: “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” In this case, the person knows just enough of logical fallacies to throw around labels that effectively inoculate themselves (and others) against good reasoning.
So be careful folks, watch who you wave those fallacies at!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Rauser on Heaven

Here's a nice video of Randal Rauser explaining how so many Christians get the Biblical teaching on Heaven wrong and why it matters. Enjoy :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's Tense Being a Pastor-Scholar

Blogger Andrew Wilson writes for CT on the tensions that pastor-scholars face.

The specialist - generalist tension
The practical - theoretical tension
The university - church tension
The novelty - fidelity tension

He also links to Michael J Kruger's blog post on a chiastic typology of scholar/pastors

Pastor - scholar
Pastor - scholar active in the academy
Scholar - pastor active in the church
Scholar - pastor

I think both the roles of pastor and scholar have become more all consuming and complicated in recent decades and increasingly the divide will be greater. Many pastors simply don't have the time to read more than a book a month, yet on any academic biblical or theological topic the secondary literature is so overwhelming that most full-time scholars struggle to keep up with it. This is one of the things I find blog reading very valuable for when scholars take the time to blog their research into digestible chunks. Additionally with the internet access to more and more resources does make it possible for even very isolated pastors to access cutting edge scholarship and even engage with it. So maybe there is hope for pastor-scholars yet  . . .

A Rather Handy Disagreement Heirarchy

Way back in 2008 Paul Graham suggests up with a heirarchy of types of disagreement. Now you can see this represented with a handy graphic (which unfortunately doesn't go all the way to the top level - central point refutation) supplied by Films for Action.

While Graham aims this at comments on websites I think this is a helpful tool for any discourse to evaluate your own comments and disagreements. Especially helpful for students to have a typology in which to be self critical of their opinions.

All of which is very helpful in not being an ass hat to begin with.